ISLAMABAD: The parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the National Assembly, Khawaja Mohammad Asif, has defended his remarks last week in the House about the rights of minorities, stating that his speech was “in accordance with the Quaid-i-Azam’s vision and the rights granted to minorities by the Constitution”.

“For the past few days, there has been an ongoing debate regarding my last speech in the National Assembly. My entire speech was in the context of Pakistan’s Constitution which grants equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their religion, faith and ethnicity,” said the PML-N leader in a statement here on Tuesday.

Mr Asif said he had made this clarification on the floor of the assembly the same day as well.

Islam is a “perfect religion” and the final message of God Almighty through His last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he said, adding that the primacy of the religion was the cornerstone of faith of every Muslim

Says two-nation theory evolved as Muslims were persecuted as a minority before partition

“Trying to misinterpret my statements, narrating them out of context for political gains is extremely irresponsible and wrong,” he remarked.

The speeches of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah served as a guiding principle in this regard, he said. The two-nation theory evolved as Muslims were persecuted as a minority prior to partition, he added.

The lawmaker, who had also served as the country’s foreign minister in the previous PML-N government and known for his close association with the Sharif family, said he supported the rights of the minorities as enshrined in the Constitution. “It is our responsibility to represent the minorities also because we have a joint electorate where everyone votes in the general election,” he said.

He said Islam taught Muslims to protect all humans irrespective of their class, colour and creed.

He said Islam made it imperative upon all to raise their voice against injustice and inequality without any fear.

Mr Asif thanked those who understood his statement and defended him at various forums.

The PML-N leader in his speech on the opening day of the National Assembly session last week had raised the issue of a social media drive against religious minorities.

His remarks that ‘no religion is superior’ under the Constitution had been criticised by the religious circles. Soon after his speech in the National Assembly, Mr Asif was confronted by a number of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) lawmakers over his remarks.

Speaking on a point of order, Mr Asif highlighted what he termed a “planned campaign against minorities” being run on the social media in retaliation for the Indian atrocities against Muslims in India-held Kashmir.

“If minorities don’t feel safe in Pakistan, then it is a matter of shame for us. It is our responsibility to protect their places of worship,” the PML-N leader had stated.

Pakistan was a tolerant society until the 1970s, but “it was after the 1980s that extremism crippled our thinking […] fault lines have been created which can be damaging for the country”, Mr Asif added.

He said there was a church in Boston where Muslims offered Friday prayers and that once he had himself offered Eid prayers at a church in New York.

“But we can’t imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan,” he remarked.

This is a country of 220 million people, he said, adding that under the Constitution, everyone had equal rights irrespective of their religion.

“As public representatives, it is our responsibility to promote tolerance in the country.”

After the PML-N leader’s speech, the Minister for Human Rights had promised to take action against those running the social media campaign against non-Muslim communities, and later on Monday, she informed the House that her ministry had already initiated the action.